I started this, so I might as well continue. Have another badly translated novel.
“Do, do you think that fish will forgive me?”
Mayu asked to the small elephant plushie that was lying on the desk.
“Did you gather all the pieces?”
I was sitting outside of Mayu’s vision, and replying in the plushie’s stead.
“Yes. Like, like usual, I, I’ve wrapped them in paper and put them in, in a box”
“The fish is not alone then. Even if broken, he is still by your side”
“I see. I see. I see”
Mayu stood up and turned around. Her face was emaciated, dark hair falling on her scared, pale visage. Her left eye looked distant, the sign of a Baroque.
“Tha, thanks. I’ll, come again”
Mayu pulled out her wallet to pay my fare. It was worn down and dirty, looked like there should have been some kind of pattern on it at one point, but you could see none of it anymore.
But the money was just fine.
“So what was it today? Repentance for breaking the plate with the fish?”
Ruby inquired, as she popped out from under the desk and lifted the elephant toy by its ears.
“Yeah. Hey, don’t break that. It’s the most important thing for my customer”
Mayu could see the spirit of “things”: toys, small objects, even patterns on a plate, she spoke with them, heard them back, and avoided relating with anything alive.
For Mayu, breaking a toy was tantamount to murder, throwing a broken dish into the garbage bin was like dumping a corpse. And yet, in order to keep on living, she had to use objects. Mayu was conscious of her sin, and her suffering made her voice tremble all the time.
“Those customers are rare, aren’t they?”
“The ones who come for repeat sessions? Yeah, true”
Mayu had visited three times so far.
“You could find that kid’s Baroque, right? Why don’t you just give it to her?”
“That wouldn’t be good timing. After all, she carries money whenever she comes here”
“Ah, right. But I thought you were a better person than this, Kitsune”
“The customer is not complaining”
“If it were me, I’d give that kid the Baroque of a soap bubble. Broken things aren’t thrown into the garbage, they just vanish into the air. Poof!”
“And that’s why you are just a loiterer. You would make for a lousy Baroquemonger”
I booted up the machine, and added a few things to Mayu’s Baroque file.
“I’m going home”
Ruby threw the toy elephant at me.
“Don’t get eaten on the way back”
I could hear sirens in the distance. It was the sign of a meta-being hunting squad. It was supposed to be a secret, but everybody knew by now. The streets were getting more dangerous every day, but Ruby kept going in and out without a care. Where her home was, I had no idea.
Four days later, Mayu knocked on my door again.
Her face and clothes were covered in some kind of soot. I quickly put the elephant on the desk and moved behind Mayu. She turned to the toy and started crying.
“T-t-t-they are all dead. They burned up and crumbled into, into a black ball of ash”
“Who burned?” I asked through the elephant.
“The little ones in the car. I, I tried to help, but then I almost, almost burned too”
Indeed, Mayu’s body emitted the distinct smell of burned plastic and crisped hair.
I quietly waited until Mayu cried herself into a calm state.
After twelve minutes, she raised her head and spoke to the elephant.
“I see. This time, I must have revenge on the invisible demons”
Mayu spoke in an unusually firm way. The “invisible demons” were probably Mayu’s parents. Mayu sometimes lamented that evil spirits swept away her things – those were definitely her parents cleaning up the room. I didn’t know if it was also them who burned up the stuff in the car, but if I’d let Mayu go home at this point, she might have tried to hurt her parents in “revenge”.
“Wait a second. Before that, look here”
I turned away from the plushie and onto the computer, printed out Mayu’s Baroque file, then showed it to her.
“My eyes are camera lenses. I capture the images as the old man on my left side commands me to. The images on my eye cancel the future, and become the past, where they can enjoy their sleep. Letting them sleep is my job. Protecting my secret is the old man who shines light on the past, my grandfather…”
“Wait, he is?”
Mayu had moved away the hair from her face. Her left eye was still facing the elephant, but her right eye was now looking at me.
“Yes. Everything, from the snowman painted on a glove that you lost when you were seven, to the woman depicted on the wrapping paper of the confectionery, which burned time ago. If you want to meet them, you’ll be able to meet them at any time”
“And the demons?”
“The old man drove them away”
“…. I see….”
“Is this Baroque fine?”
Ruby entered as soon as Mayu left. She gave out the same smell of burning things that Mayu had on her. Thinking about it, she had previously said that she wanted to go after Mayu…
“It wasn’t me. It was the arsonist Baroque kid down the block… probably”
“Why did you follow Mayu?”
“I had time to spare. And it would have been boring if some meta-being ate her before she could obtain a Baroque”
“Just like a bodyguard. And I bet you had nothing to do with burning those important things”
“But now that you gave her a Baroque, it doesn’t matter anymore even if her entire world burns away, right?”
“You wouldn’t be saying that if I hadn’t just taken care of the situation”
Admittedly, Mayu didn’t hoard things because she loved them. She just feared the pain and sadness of throwing them away. Almost as if she herself were the invisible demon she so fervently hated. However, if it was Mayu’s destiny to take in the feelings of things, and those things were stored in a delusional place always inside her, then Mayu was finally freed from her fears.
“Do you still need that elephant plushie?”
“You can take it”
“I will. Truth is, I’ve always liked fairy tales and stories”
Four days later, a woman who presented herself as Mayu’s mother visited, bringing a cake.
“Thank you. My kid finally got rid of those piles of junk”
One bite, and it tasted unexpectedly good. I didn’t want to give any to Ruby, so I hid somewhere. Before I could even take my second bite, I received a tape that Mayu had recorded as her last will.
If I had kept eating the cake without first watching the tape, I would have felt like an invisible demon myself. So I put the tape into my set. It was an old deck, and the picture looked worn out and noisy.
On the screen, you could see a close-up of Mayu’s face.
“I’m going to grandpa’s place”
With those words, Mayu turned on her left side, and then stabbed her right eye with scissors. No!, said a voice behind me, it was Ruby who had just come in and was looking at the screen. I rewinded the tape and watched it again, several times. Every single time, Mayu said she was going to grandpa’s place, stabbed her right eye, and died. I took the tape out of the deck. This black, square thing was now Mayu herself.
“She really went to the world of things, uh”
I felt relief. Good thing my job experience told me to place the old man on her left side. If I had told her it was on the right side instead, and she then stabbed her left eye, she would have died like a Baroque, and that would have been suspicious. Controlling the past is always a job for the left side.
“Kitsune, are you really sure things don’t have a mind?”
“Another fairy tale of yours?”
“… here. I found it like this in the morning”
Ruby was holding the elephant plushie. The button that was meant to be its right eye had been gouged out.
Only two left now. My job is being a pain nowadays, so it might take a while before I get the next one up. We’ll see what I can do during the weekend.